The family of Henrietta Lacks reached a settlement Monday in their lawsuit against a biotech company over the use of the Baltimore woman’s immortal cells better known as “HeLa cells.”
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2021 and demanded compensation for Thermo Fisher Scientific’s use of the cells. They were taken without Henrietta Lacks’ permission decades ago and are still being currently being used for medical research.
The terms of the settlement are confidential, however, according to Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump, both parties are “pleased” they were able to resolve the matter outside of court.
“I can think of no better present… than to give her family some measure of respect for Henrietta Lacks, some measure of dignity for Henrietta Lacks, and most of all some measure of justice for Henrietta Lacks,” Crump said during a press conference Tuesday, which would have been her 103rd birthday.
Family present at the press conference, which included Lacks’ only living son and some of her grandchildren, let go of balloons in memory of her birthday.
Monday’s settlement conference was held in the chambers of U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson.
Lacks originally went to Johns Hopkins in 1951 for cervical cancer treatment. When her cancer cells were biopsied, doctors realized that instead of dying, her cells doubled every 20 to 24 hours.
They were later nicknamed the “HeLa cells” and played a critical role in medical advancements, despite having no permission from Lacks or her family.
The cells were taken and are still being used for research in many things including vaccines and cosmetics.
Additionally, HeLa cells were also used in the development of the polio vaccine, along with treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS, leukemia, and Parkinson’s disease. Lacks died of cancer in 1951.
Her family only found out about the use of her cells decades later.
Thermo Fisher has tried multiple times to have the case dismissed, arguing the statute of limitations has passed and that they’re not breaking a law by replicating and using the cells.
The Lacks family’s lawyers have made it clear this is far from the last lawsuit over the HeLa cells stating there could be dozens more.
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Henrietta Lacks’ Family Reaches Settlement Over Use Of Immortal HeLa Cells was originally published on wolbbaltimore.com
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